In 2021, the inaugural Rise Up conference drew over 650 registrants and raised over $25,000 to fund the conference and compensate directly impacted presenters for their time and experiences. The conference featured speakers from throughout the country as well as from around the world! We were honored to hear the stories of system-impacted individuals who have been released and are now working in incredible positions once thought unattainable, such as physicians, lawyers, directors, professors, and more. We hope to expand on this incredible start with our second annual Rise Up conference in September 2022.
Higher education in prison is a field that has experienced a period of rapid expansion over the last twenty years. Although there is a lot of discussion in this field about the importance of including directly impacted people, it is rare to see spaces where those directly impacted people are leading the conversation. Many college-in-prison programs include directly impacted people as tokens on panel discussions, but rarely are they included in leadership positions. The time has come for those with lived experience to set the full agenda for the conversations we believe need to be had. While there is value in working with those who were not incarcerated as collaborators and thought partners, these conversations must be led by those affected by college in prison programs. After all, our expertise and perspectives should be strongly valued in the field, because we lived through it and thrived!
Several partners have come together to work collaboratively and collectively to create this truly innovative conference. Each year we seek formerly incarcerated presenters (who may share the stage with their non-systems impacted allies), to join us in advancing this work. Rise Up is especially interested in innovative yet unrecognized ideas, experiences, and informal experiences that challenge ways of knowing and being.
Rise Up is centered on the theme of honoring our past while shaping the future. First, and foremost, we hope formerly incarcerated scholars continue to use this forum to advance their liberation from spaces “solely developed” by and for people with no lived experience and expertise. While we welcome all stakeholders who believe in collective liberation, we seek ideas and experiences from directly impacted people. Our work calls attention to past giants who’ve fostered thought and action that have helped our people begin rising from our internal and external constraints as well exploring and offering ideas and plans for accelerating this liberation. As an education-centered conference, we’re especially interested in the transformation of prison-based and post-prison education as well as transformation that can occur through them. We particularly value ideas and plans that center our assets, expertise, and potential rather than our deficits and how to correct them. Our lived and scholarly expertise allows us to think in ways that are fundamentally different from the thinking of traditional experts. This, combined with our unique perspectives and ways of thinking, provide the potential for innovation. We believe your ideas this will not only serve our liberation but that of the education field.